Articles: Mainboards
 

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Testbed Configuration

We carried out our tests on a testbed that included the following components:

  • Mainboard: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 rev.1.0 (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express, BIOS F4g);
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge, 3.3 GHz, LGA1155);
  • Memory: 2 x 2048 MB DDR3 SDRAM Patriot Extreme Performance Viper II Sector 5 Series PC3-16000, PVV34G2000LLKB (2000 MHz, 8-8-8-24 timings, 1.65 V voltage);
  • Graphics card: MSI N570GTX-M2D12D5/OC (Nvidia GeForce GTX 570, GF110, 40 nm, 786/4200 MHz, 320-bit GDDR5 1280 MB);
  • Hard drive: Kingston SSD Now V+ Series (SNVP325-S2, 128 GB);
  • Cooling system:
    • Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B (SCMG-2100) CPU cooler;
    • Additional 80x80 mm fan for cooling of the area around the CPU socket during overclocking experiments;
  • Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-2;
  • Power Supply Unit: CoolerMaster RealPower M850 (RS-850-ESBA);
  • System case: Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 9.2.0.1030, Nvidia GeForce/ION Driver 280.26 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Very few contemporary mainboards have AHCI mode enabled by default for storage devices. Most of them still have the good old IDE. Gigabyte mainboards have it worked out differently: they give the user a choice. IDE is set in the BIOS by default, but upon first boot-up you will be offered an option to switch to AHCI, or not. Once the choice has been made, this message will no longer pop up.

The strangest thing about this mainboard is that all its power-saving modes and technologies are disabled in the BIOS by default. It definitely affects the mainboard power consumption, because in idle mode neither the CPU clock frequency multiplier, nor its Vcore will go down. However, it also affects the performance, because in this case Intel Turbo Boost technology is only partially functional. The faulty default optimal settings cause the processor clock multiplier to be always increased to 34x, and its Vcore to also be always higher (it would only drop to 1.2 under heavy load).

In our article called From UD3P to UD7: Four Gigabyte Mainboards for LGA1155 on Intel Z68 Express Chipset we already discussed Gigabyte mainboards where we had to manually enable all Intel power-saving technologies and Intel Turbo Boost. However, it is not necessary for Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2. Everything would work just fine if only they put Auto instead of Disabled in the BIOS: in this case the clock frequency multiplier would change from 34x to 37x depending on the CPU utilization, and in idle mode it would drop down to 16x together with the voltage.

Overall, we are a little confused with the way this mainboard works in the nominal mode, however, there were no surprises during overclocking. The mainboard could easily let our processor speed up to its maximum frequency of 4.7 GHz. The memory overclocking experience wasn’t as successful: we had to stop at 1600 MHz, although unlike other Gigabyte mainboards, this one didn’t need us to increase the memory timings.

We always overclock our system with the intention to use it in this mode continuously for a long time. But despite this fact, we do not look for easy solutions and do not disable additional controller and other mainboard features. And in most cases we try to preserve all processor power-saving technologies. The same is true our today’s case: even during overclocking all processor power-saving technologies on Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 remained up and running lowering the processor clock multiplier and core voltage  under heavy loads.

In conclusion I would like to say a few words about O.C.Button for automatic system overclocking. We all know very well that no automatic system can even remotely compare with what you can achieve during manual overclocking, when you can find maximum or the most optimal settings for your system. However, each automatic overclocking tool has its own unique imperfections. I have to say that automatic overclocking has been implemented pretty successfully on Asus mainboards. They increase the base clock a little bit, raise the memory frequency, allow the processor clock multiplier to go up, but keep all power-saving technologies intact. An example of a not very successful implementation of an automatic overclocking tool will belong to MSI: their mainboards simply increase the voltage and multiplier and completely disable all power-saving technologies. However, in any case, you will switch from nominal to overclocked mode, while Gigabyte allows combining the two. When you press the O.C.Button, it starts glowing blue and the processor clock frequency will increase to 4.1 GHz under heavy load. All power-saving technologies will remain up and running, so that the CPU Vcore and multiplier could drop down in idle mode. You can go back to the nominal operation mode by pressing the O.C.Button one more time or by rebooting the system.

I am sure you will agree that we do not always need overclocking. The processor working in energy-efficient mode when its frequency and voltage are lowered is still capable to cope adequately with the majority of everyday tasks. Only when you switch to complex time-consuming calculations, media content processing or gaming, you need higher clock speeds and this is when you press the magic button and immediately get the desired performance boost. You no longer need higher speeds – press the button and go back to the nominal operational mode. The only downside to this brilliant implementation of the automatic overclocking feature is the fact that O.C.Button is located on the back panel, so it will be inconvenient to reach, especially during frequent use. However, do not forget that the mainboard comes with a unique 5-inch panel for the system case front, where we also have the O.C.Button. I absolutely loved it and would definitely use this auto-OC function on my home system all the time. It would be great if Gigabyte could make something similar for their regular mainstream mainboards, too.

 
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